A message from Mr Willis:
One of the best bits of my job is doing the STARS assemblies, which I have held for the last time this week. It was a pleasure to tell those young people in Years 7-10 what a big difference they had made to the feel of the school in the last couple of weeks and how proud we all are that the young people have all presented the best versions of themselves. The school has been a real joy to walk round and the staff are grateful.
We have been in competition for a couple of teachers in shortage subjects this week. Almost all have put Wallingford as first choice and stated the happiness of the place and the good behaviour of the students as reasons. I don’t doubt that, as ever, a lot of the credit goes to the families who supported our approach. I hope you have felt the benefits at home too. I am grateful to you for helping maintain such high standards. Such support is something I have told Mr Marston he will find one of the real positives about working here.
Challenging the students like this has made it so that the number of young people demanding our attention for poor conduct is limited to those who really need our help for a while. We are working hard to ensure they get what they need in the next few months to help them get as much out of school as their peers, who are able to behave so very well especially when challenged to.
The only remaining issue now is the conduct of a small number of students in the community. During the last half term break we had a series of complaints from local shops and members of the public. Those involved were visited by the police. Last week Wallingford was treated to some pretty poor conduct again; loud groups swearing at people, shouting at other youngsters and defying adults to confront them. There was also unsafe behaviour on the bridge. Not all the students were from our school but most were, one or two in uniform. These are all young people that are really good company on their own and I like each one as a person. They can be very difficult in groups left to their own devices. It is not a major problem but we would all like it to be nipped in the bud or it will get worse over the summer. I am also worried that the next stage would be for them to get involved with older people, which would put them at risk of developing a pattern of poor and risky behaviour.
The police have engaged with the school and altered shift patterns to enable them to be around to manage these children. Some students have already been issued with Acceptable Behaviour Contracts. We have 2 requests for help to make.
- If you are a parent of a young person who you think may be at risk of killing time by wandering around with others who get things wrong at times please do what you can to ensure they are not up to things you wouldn’t approve.
We are sure you appreciate the difference between being a little bumptious and outright anti-social behaviour. The majority of children try out bad language for a while and simply gathering and being a tad noisy is part of growing up for many and not an unhealthy one. Children have the right to feel adults are looking out for them but not that their every move is being watched and judged to be wrong in some way. We want to stop anything that really feels threatening or dangerous. Once we have helped the police manage behaviour in the community, we will look at ways to help these young people entertain themselves more safely.
I hope you understand. It is a lovely, safe and courteous part of the world to live in, for children as well as adults. It is really healthy to be able to go about our area and enjoy courtesy and respect, especially from young people. For the sake of those involved as much as anyone else we would like to keep it that way. I hope that the knowledge the community is keeping an eye on them will help us achieve the civilised behaviour we have engineered in school.